Thursday, May 31

Extracurriculars

When I was in high school, sports, clubs, and after school activities were always referred to as "extracurriculars." It was one of those subtle reminders that everything- even the things you did for fun- was part of the college admission equation. My private high school was very into college admissions- and very in to EC's.

Everyone was required to play two sports (though only one of them had to be competitive), and one day out of every six on our "modular" scheduling program (don't ask), our first period was devoted to "meetings"- which meant that everyone had to participate in at least a couple of clubs. Because we were also highly encouraged to start our own clubs, there was a pretty impressive (and entertaining) variety available (says a former member of the Table Tennis Federation, which considered ping pong to be an extreme sport). Because we were REQUIRED to play sports and join clubs and the like, I got a lot of experiences I might not have had otherwise. I played volleyball and basketball my freshman year to meet the sports requirements- loved one, hated the other, and spent the next three years on the varsity volleyball team, and four years after that playing intramural v-ball in college. I joined clubs that were completely foreign territory for me, and ended up staying with them for three or four years.

Still, with everything I did, there was a small, underlying element of competition- I didn't just want to do these things... I wanted to be good at them. Part of it was the extracurriculars-are-an-important-part-of-getting-in-to-colleges atmosphere, and part of it was just my personality and the fact that I have a really hard time turning down a challenge. I never did things just because they'd look good on my resume, but at the same time, if I was doing something, I wanted to do it really well.

The entire time I was in high school, there were two exceptions to this- two things that I did JUST because I loved them, things that I never felt competitive about and never felt any pressure to be better at. The first was dancing. I started taking ballet when I was three, and I've always loved it, and loved pushing myself and trying to train my body to do new things, but of everything I've ever done, dancing was the one thing that I never did competitively. No competitions. No awards. My dance studio was home and the other people there were family. I loved doing it, simple as that, and nothing else ever came into play.

As for the other thing I did after school that wasn't competitive in the least... that was writing. I wrote my first book (which, believe me, no one will ever see) my senior year in high school. And my second, third, and fourth. But like dancing, writing wasn't like everything else I did. It just sort of was. I submitted things, I got rejected (and rejected and rejected), but my whole perfectionist competitive whatchamacallit never clicked on the way it did with almost everything else. Writing was fun, and being published was a dream, not a goal.

My freshman year in college, I kept really busy, but the word "extracurriculars" never once crossed my mind. I tutored at a local elementary school, tried out for the mock trial team on a whim, played three seasons of IM volleyball, and joined a cognition lab. Over time, everything I did outside of class became like what dancing and writing were for me in high school. I did them. I worked hard at them. I loved them. But at the end of the day, whether or not I was "good" at them (and just how "good") didn't matter.

And that summer, I wrote Golden, which became my first published book.

So... any other perfectionists out there? Anyone braving the scary world that is the college application process? As far as after school activities go, what are/were your labors of love?

17 comments:

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I am a perfectionist, and I loved Golden.

Lynda said...

OOOH, great blog post, Jennifer. I was--and still am--really small, 4'11" on a good day. :-) Although this could've been an advantage in, say, gymnastics, I'm NOT flexible. As a result, I never got picked for team sports, and all these zillions of years later, I'm still bitter about it! LOL!! Okay, not bitter, but I always get prickles along the back of my neck when the school athletes are revered so much more than the other kids. I was an OTHER, big time.

My boyfriend in highschool was the three-sport, MVP, revered jock (in a stupid bit of irony even I don't quite understand), and HELLO, I used to write his papers for him.

I don't know who was the bigger dummy! :-)

When I got older, I found a sport I excelled in--powerlifting. Totally not a team sport. I competed on a local level but left the sport ranked 11th nationally in my weight class after setting a deadlift record of 235 lbs. (in the 105 lb. weight class), at the World Police and Fire Games, 1994.

I guess this is all to say, LONG LIVE THE OTHERS! Sports are wonderful, but they can be elitist and unaccepting if you don't fit the mold, and speaking from experience, that sucked as a kid and teen. (I mean, I tried to play soccer. No one would kick me the ball!)

For the Happily Ever After ending, I was accepted into college (and put into the remedial tennis group to play with the other losers who couldn't play--great tactic), graduated in my honor society, and now I get to write books about the kids who didn't ride the sports bus or do the volleyball clap. And I'm a total perfectionist (except when it comes to house cleaning). Gotta love that!

Lynda Sandoval
www.LyndaSandoval.com
Who's Your Daddy?/Simon Pulse
Chicks Ahoy/Simon Pulse
Coming soon:
More YA fiction from Pulse and Houghton Mifflin

Katie Alender said...

I stop just short of being a perfectionist, and I think that fact has saved me a lot of stress over the years!

I went to an arts high school, so team sports weren't a very big deal. I participated in a lot of extra-curricular stuff, but I think it was mostly to pad the old college resume (considering I don't remember most of it).

Devon Ellington said...

I did many ECs in high school, but none of them were required. I enjoyed working for the school newspaper and as a sports photographer for the yearbook -- two skills I developed that have served me well since! I also enjoyed French Club, Model UN, and working on the school's lit mag, and in the band, orchestra, and hockey band.

All of that helped a lot for college admissions -- I was accepted by every college to which I applied.

Sports have never been my thing, as a participant -- just as a writer/observer/photographer/fan.

I also went to college part-time in high-school, danced (ballet, jazz, and tap) at the local college, held down a job, and was a candystriper. And here I am, worrying that teens today overbook!

Great post. Made me think back.

Devon Ellington
Ink in My Coffee
http://devonellington.wordpress.com

TinaFerraro said...

EC's weren't all that important to me when I was in school, but I see my own teenage kids spreading themselves thin with them at times, and I worry that it's going to take a toll on their health or their grades!

As far as being a perfectionalist, I am when it comes to punctuality. I go CRAZY when I'm late, feel like I'm going to implode. Yet I don't expect the same out of others...I am used to waiting for people because I usually arrive early.

Great post, Jennifer, and I'm excited about the new series!

Tina
www.tinaferraro.com
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress

Danielle said...

This post took me back. I hated anything that involved a ball and I also didn't like to sweat. We had something called "individual fitness" that we could opt for to fill our phys-ed ec's. A few of us would hang around the tiny weight room doing half-hearted bicep curls if a teacher happened to be walking by. It was pathetic. The other thing I always signed up for was track and field--the less teamwork the better and no balls involved!

Danielle

Maureen McGowan said...

I was more of a perfectionist in high school than I am now. I think I'm finally starting to get over that affliction.

I did everything in high school. Sports, student council, the musical, singing clubs... and I somehow managed to get good grades. Sometimes I think I peaked in H/S. Let's hope not.

bevrosenbaum said...

Definitely not, Maureen--you're not getting older, you're getting better!

God, Jenn, I got tired just reading your post. My extra-curriculars are still pretty much limited to reading and writing. (Yes, these are also my jobs. Shut up.) When I grow up (never mind that I'm probably your mother's age), I want to be you!

Bev

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Man, what a busy schedule. I was a band nerd, but that was the extent of my business...I didn't join sports because I'm horridly clumsy. hahaha

stephhale said...

In high school, I was a band nerd (clarinet), including marching band. I was in AFS, FHA, and Student Council. I was a little bit of an overachiever, still am. Sometimes it makes me tired! :)
hugs,
Steph
ps- I started Tattoo today while getting my hair done, loving it!

Gerb said...

I'm a selective perfectionist. :)

Strangely, in HS I never made the connection between ECs and College apps, but I was involved plenty even without the extra incentive. Senior year, most of my friends had graduated and moved on to University and I hated being stuck in HS, so I overcompensated by jumping into every EC I could. Crazy year, that.

Kristen Painter said...

I was a geek. Student Council, teacher's aid, founding member of SADD. If I had it to do over, I would have tried my hand at drama.

And while I don't know that I'm a perfectionist, I'm definitely competitive!

Sara Hantz said...

I'm too much of a pragmatist to be a perfectionist, though I do have a perfectionist child..... and watching how stressed she gets over things is so hard.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes said...

Lauren- so glad you liked Golden, and Steph, same goes for you starting Tattoo!

Tina, I feel you on the being late front. I'm ALWAYS early. I'm one of those people who gets to the airport ridiculously early- for my last two international flights, I've arrived before the airport even OPENED. I just was NOT going to risk missing my flight home!

As for everyone who's been talking about not being sporty types, I'm pretty unsporty myself. I was always much better at dancing/cheerleading type activities growing up than sports- and I *played* everything at one point in time or another in elementary school, including basketball, soccer, softball, and even golf. And the only one I wasn't dreadful at was golf. Volleyball turned out to be a good sport for me, because there's very little running involved, and the ball is relatively soft. :)

Lis said...

Totally a perfectionist here. And might actually even be worse than when I was in HS lol But I couldn't do sports, couldn't run. Didn't get picked for the teams. Didn't do any ECs other, I was always glad when the bell went and I was able to get the heck out of there :) Course I don't think ECs are as big a deal to colleges here in Canada as it is in the states

Brian Mandabach said...

After I got kicked off the cross country team freshman year because, during a 45 minute run, I stopped in at Dee's for what was called a "dip"--a sandwich sized piece of Italian bread dipped in the very spicy au jus he used on his beef sandwiches--I never joined another thing except backpacking club, which was very low key. (Stopping for snacks was common among the best runners, and I did intend to run extra. It was the first time I tried it, and Coach Leto walked in.)

And though I am very glad we didn't have manditory participation at my public high school, thinking about backpacking club, the few articles I wrote for the school paper, and the one time I went to Latin club, softens the knee-jerk, anti-participation attitude I've had all these years. :-)

Though I'm no longer a complete slacker, it did take me 20 years after college graduation to finish my first novel, so I gotta hand it to you achievers!

nice post. thanks.

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